A County Opinion on City Legal Dispute?
Dispute between council and City Attorney gets ever stranger, as committee requests county corp counsel's opinion.
When developer Barrett Lo Visionary Development needed a liability shield added to the $19.5 million city financing agreement to satisfy investors, the Department of City Development was poised to grant it in exchange for a $1.41 million personal guarantee for a portion of a federal streetcar grant that funds a line that will run through the base of the building.
City Attorney Tearman Spencer said Bauman overstepped his authority as an alderman and committed an ethics violation by pushing for the amendment. Spencer, in a letter, said Bauman violated state statute 19.59 and city ordinance 303-5-3 that “prohibit a local official from soliciting or accepting, directly or indirectly, anything of value if it could reasonably be expected to influence that official’s vote.” He also said the council violated city ordinance 304-21 in approving a contract greater than $25,000 without city attorney approval.
Spencer refused to sign the agreement, placing the $190 million project in jeopardy.
A compromise was reached when Spencer agreed to allow a mutually selected third party to review the matter. Mediator and former judge Chuck Kahn (and landlord to Spencer’s former private practice office) was ultimately selected to decide if the council acted appropriately. The $100,000 sits in escrow until Kahn renders an opinion.
“I thought this would move the file forward and deal with the bigger picture issue of amendments by the council on agreements moving forward,” said Perez at a Monday afternoon meeting of the Steering & Rules Committee. The committee unanimously approved the request, but the full council must still adopt it.
The county’s top attorney, unlike the City Attorney, is not an independent, elected official. Daun was hired by the County Executive in 2017 and confirmed by the Board of Supervisors. Despite now working in the Courthouse, she’s quite familiar with the inner workings of City Hall. Daun previously served as an assistant city attorney and later as head of the city’s deferred compensation plan.
Neither the council, nor Spencer, can compel Daun to respond. Will she?
Daun did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.
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Read more about Couture here